Ordnance QF 25-pounder

The Ordnance QF 25-pounder, or more simply 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was the major British field gun and howitzer during World War II. It was introduced into service just before the war started, combining high-angle and direct-fire, relatively high rates of fire, and a reasonably lethal shell in a highly mobile piece. It remained the British Army's primary artillery field piece well into the 1960s, with smaller numbers serving in training units until the 1980s. Many Commonwealth of Nations countries used theirs in active or reserve service until about the 1970s and ammunition for the weapon is currently being produced by Pakistan Ordnance Factories.

Ordnance QF 25-pounder
Class Vehicle
Type Towed Artillery
Manufacturer Royal Ordnance Factory
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1940
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Belgium View
Brazil View
Canada View
Ceylon (Sri Lanka) View
Cyprus View
Fiji View
Germany View
Greece View
India View
Iraq View
Ireland View
Italy View
Kurds View
Lebanon View
Oman (Muscat) View
Pakistan View
Paraguay View
Poland View
Portugal View
Singapore View
South Africa View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1940 View
Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) View
Luxembourg View
Malta View
New Zealand View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Royal Ordnance Factory View

The design was the result of extended studies looking to replace the 18-pounder (3.3 inches (84 mm) bore) field gun and the 4.5-inch howitzer (114.3 mm bore), which had been the main field artillery equipments during the First World War. The basic idea was to build one weapon with the high velocity of the 18-pounder and the variable propelling charges of the howitzer, firing a shell about half way between the two in size, around 3.5–4.0 inches (89–102 mm) of about 30 pounds (14 kg).

Development during the inter-war period was severely hampered by a lack of money and it was eventually decided to build a "new" design from existing 18-pounders by converting barrels but designing a new barrel and carriage for production when funds were available. The result was a 3.45 inches (87.6 mm) weapon firing a shell weighing 25 pounds (11.3 kg). It was mounted on late model 18-pounder carriages. One of these used a circular firing platform and this was adopted for the new guns. The firing platform was attached to the gun and when lowered the gun was pulled onto it. This platform transferred most of the recoil forces to the ground, instead of using the spade at the end of the trail, making the gun very stable when firing. It also provided a flat smooth surface for the carriage to rotate on using the road wheels, this enabled the gunners to quickly traverse the carriage in any direction.

Unlike the 18-pounder, the 25-pounder used howitzer-type variable-charge ammunition. The 25-pounder was separate-loading; the shell was loaded and rammed, then the cartridge in its brass case was loaded and the breech closed. In British terminology the 25-pounder was called "quick firing" (QF), originally because the cartridge case provided rapid loading compared to bag charges, and was automatically released when the breech was opened.

The use of separate shell and cartridge allowed the charge to be changed for different ranges. For the Mk 1 Ordnance on an 18-pounder carriage there were three "charges", charges one, two and three, all of which could be used in the common cartridge design. The Mk 2 Ordnance on Mk 1 carriage added a "super" charge in a different cartridge. In 1943 a separately bagged "increment" charge was added; used with the Super it provided higher velocity for anti-tank use. The introduction of the increment to super was only possible following the addition of the muzzle-brake in the previous year. Subsequently another type of increment was introduced to be added to charges one and two to provide additional combinations for use in high angle fire. However, this fire required a dial sight adaptor, removal of the platform and some excavation of the ground.

In common with all British guns of the period the indirect fire sight was "calibrating". This meant that the range, not elevation angle, was set on the sight. The sight compensated for the difference in the gun's muzzle velocities from standard. The gun was also fitted with a direct-fire telescope for use with armour-piercing shot. It also used "one-man laying" in accordance with normal British practice.

An important part of the gun was the ammunition trailer ("trailer, artillery, No 27"). The gun was hooked to it and the trailer hooked to the tractor for towing. The gun did not need a limber and could be hooked directly to a tractor. The trailer provided the brakes as only a hand-brake was fitted to the gun carriage. The trailer carried ammunition; thirty-two rounds in trays (two rounds per tray) in the trailer protected by two doors. Ammunition was also carried in the gun tractor with the detachment and various gun stores. Some stores, such as sights, were carried cased on the gun. Each section (two guns) had a third tractor that carried ammunition and towed two ammunition trailers.

The gun detachment comprised the following: No 1 – detachment commander (a sergeant) No 2 – operated the breech and rammed the shell No 3 – layer No 4 – loader No 5 – ammunition No 6 – ammunition, normally the 'coverer' – second in command and responsible for ammunition preparation and operating the fuze indicator

The official 'reduced detachment' was four men.

Many different companies manufactured the guns and component parts in the UK. Vickers Armstrong in Scotswood, Baker Perkins in Peterborough and Weirs in Glasgow were some of the most significant. The various Royal Ordnance factories produced most of the ordnance components. In Canada, Sorel Industries built complete guns and provided the ordnance for fitting to the Sexton. Australia also built complete guns, choosing to weld the carriages rather than rivet, as was the practice in the UK and Canada. In all, over 13,000 were made world wide.

The 25-pounder was the main field artillery weapon used by British Commonwealth and colonial infantry and armoured divisions of all types during the Second World War. Throughout the war each British-pattern infantry division was established with 72 25-pounders, in three field artillery regiments (battalions). Armoured divisions eventually were standardised with two field artillery regiments, one of which was self-propelled (see below). Before mid-1940 each regiment had two batteries (companies) of twelve guns; after that date regiments changed to batteries of eight guns and added a third battery, a process that was not completed until early 1943. In the late 1950s, the British Army reverted to batteries of six guns. Field artillery regiments had two batteries of 25-pounders and one of 5.5 inch guns.

The early 18- and 25-pounders had been towed in the field by the Light Dragon, a tracked vehicle derived from a light tank, and the Morris CDSW. Throughout most of the Second World War the 25-pounder was normally towed, with its limber, behind a 4x4 field artillery tractor called a "quad". These were manufactured by Morris, Guy and Karrier in England, and, in greater numbers, as the Canadian Military Pattern field artillery tractor by Ford and Chevrolet in Canada. In the 1950s, the British Army replaced the various "quads" with a new Bedford three-ton gun tower fitted with a specialist body.

In 1941, the British Army improvised a self-propelled 25-pounder named the Bishop, on the chassis of the Valentine tank. This mount was unsatisfactory and was replaced in 1942 by the American M7 Priest. However, this complicated the supply of ammunition in the field, and was replaced in 1944 by the Sexton, which was designed and mostly manufactured in Canada (some 2/3 of ordnances and mountings were imported from the UK due to limited Canadian production capacity) and mounted the 25-pounder on a Ram or Grizzly tank chassis.

By World War II standards, the 25-pounder had a smaller calibre and lower shell-weight than many other field-artillery weapons, although it had longer range than most. (Most forces had entered the war with even smaller 75 mm (3.0 in) designs but had quickly moved to 105 mm (4.1 in) and larger weapons.) It was designed for the British practice of suppressive (neutralising) fire, not destructive fire that had proved illusory in the early years of World War I. Nevertheless the 25-pounder was considered by all to be one of the best artillery pieces in use. The effects caused by the gun (and the speed at which the British artillery control system could respond) in the North-West Europe Campaign of 1944–1945 made many German soldiers believe that the British had secretly deployed an automatic 25-pounder.

In UK service most guns were replaced by the 105mm Abbot and some by the Oto Melara 105mm pack howitzer and the remainder by the 105mm L118 light gun. The last British military unit to fire the 25-pounder in its field role (as opposed to ceremonial use) was the Gun Troop of the Honourable Artillery Company on Salisbury Plain in 1992.

Service with other nations

In addition to Commonwealth and colonial forces other Second World War users included the free forces of France, Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The first shot fired by US artillery against the German army in World War II was from a 25-pounder of the 34th Infantry division.

After the Second World War 25-pounders remained in service with many Commonwealth armies into the 1960s. They were used in Korea by British, Canadian and New Zealand regiments and in Malaya by British and Australian batteries. They also featured in wars on the Indian sub-continent and in the service of Israeli and other Middle Eastern armies.

South Africa

The gun was called G1 by the South African Defence Force. It was extensively used in the early stages of the South African Border War, including Operation Savannah. The G1 is still used in the ceremonial role.


The Rhodesian Army used the weapon during the Bush War but by this stage the round could not penetrate enemy bunkers.

Sri Lanka

The 25-pounder was extensively used by the Sri Lankan Army during the early years of the Sri Lankan civil war. It still remains in service, although only in a ceremonial role.


In 1949, 48 ex-British-Army Mark III 25-pounders were acquired by the Irish Defence Forces and were in service with the reserves until 2009, having been replaced in the army by the 105 mm light gun in 1981. The Irish Army maintains a six-gun ceremonial 25-pounder battery for use on state occasions.


The Indian Army employed the 25-pounder into the 1980s.


The Luxembourg Army maintains a number of 25-pounder guns rebarrelled to 105 millimetres (4.1 in) and fitted with new sights for gun salutes.


The 25-pounder first entered service with Greek forces in North Africa during WWII. Three (I,II and III) field artillery regiments of 24 pieces were created in total as part of the Greek infantry brigades created. They saw significant action at El Alamein and Rimini. After the war the 25-pounder served as part of the Greek Army during the Greek Civil War. A total of 125 25-pounder guns were used by the Greek artillery during the civil war of 1946–1949, in various organizational schemes. After the civil war they were organized into seven independent regiments of 18 guns. Following Greece's entry into Nato in 1952 and the standardization on American calibres in 1953, the 25-pounders were not retired (unlike other models), but were reorganised as 13 battalions of eight guns in divisional artilleries. In 1957 the influx of American artillery pieces permitted an increase from 8 to 12 guns per battalion. In 1964 a total of 54 25-pdr guns were delivered from Greece to Cyprus, where they entered service with the Cyprus National Guard organized into four battalions of 12 guns (181, 182, 183 and 185) and one independent battery of six guns (184). They saw action during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. The 25-pounder remained in Greek Army service until 1992, when it were retired as part of the CFE agreement. The guns of the Cyprus National Guard remain in storage.

New Zealand

The 16th Field Regiment of the Royal New Zealand Army, equipped with 25-pounders, was formed to join the United Nations force in the Korean War.

Iraqi Kurdistan

A British 25-pounder gun has been spotted and used by Kurdish Peshmerga Forces against ISIS positions in Mosul.

Type Field gun/Howitzer
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1940–present
Used by See users
Wars World War II
Malayan Emergency
Korean war
Rhodesian Bush War
South African Border War
Dhofar Rebellion
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Sri Lankan Civil War
Iraqi insurgency
Production history
Designed 1930s
Manufacturer Royal Ordnance
Variants See variants
Specifications (Mk II on Carriage Mk I)
Weight 1,633 kg (3,600 lb)
Length 4.6 m (15 ft 1 in)
muzzle to towing eye
Barrel length 2.47 m (8 ft 1 in) (28 cal)
Width 2.13 m (7 ft)
at wheel hubs
Height 1.16 m (3 ft 10 in)
trunnion height
Crew 6
Shell High explosive
Shell weight 11.5 kg (25 lb) (HE including fuze)
Calibre 87.6 mm (3.45 in)
Breech Vertical sliding block
Recoil Hydro-pneumatic
Elevation -5° to 45°
(80° with dial sight adapter and digging trail pit or wheel mounds)
Traverse 4° Left & Right (top traverse)
360° (platform)
Rate of fire Gunfire, 6–8 rpm
Intense, 5 rpm
Rapid, 4 rpm
Normal, 3 rpm
Slow, 2 rpm
Very slow, 1 rpm
Muzzle velocity 198 to 532 m/s (650 to 1,750 ft/s)
Maximum firing range 12,253 m (13,400 yd) (HE shell)
Sights Calibrating & reciprocating

End notes